In the dynamic and competitive business landscape, corporate innovation has emerged as a pivotal force for organizations seeking growth and sustainability. Implementing new ideas and processes, however, often involves significant changes to the existing corporate structure, culture, and systems. To effectively navigate these transformations, companies must prioritize change management.

This essay explores the role and importance of change management in a corporate innovation process. Based on decennia of pragmatic and practical expertise we highlight the do’s and don’ts that can make or break successful innovation initiatives.

The importance of change management

In Latin the word ‘innovare’ signifies the introduction of changes and new ideas in the way something is done or made. Innovation is change. It is a process that needs to be managed. The role of change management in corporate innovation is multifaceted and essential to the success of the overall innovation process. Let’s have a closer look at some of the change management roles.

Facilitate cultural shifts
Change management facilitates the cultural shifts necessary for embracing innovation. Innovation often disrupts established norms, myths and beliefs, and challenges the status quo. By fostering a culture of openness and adaptability, change management encourages employees to embrace new ideas and strategies without the fear of failure. It creates a shared vision and collective commitment to innovation across the organization, aligning everyone’s efforts towards a common goal.

Reduce resistance
A proper change management program helps to reduce resistance from employees who may perceive innovation as a threat to their job security or feel apprehensive about embracing unfamiliar processes. By employing effective communication, involving stakeholders, and providing adequate training and support, change management addresses these concerns and builds trust in your innovation process.

Enhance collaboration
Change management plays a pivotal role in enhancing collaboration within the organization. Corporate innovation often necessitates cross-functional cooperation, and change management ensures that communication channels are open, and silos are broken down. This fosters collective problem-solving and ensures that diverse perspectives are integrated into the innovation process.

Increase employee engagement
Next to an enhanced collaboration, change management contributes to individual employee engagement. A key driver of innovation. Engaged employees are more likely to embrace new ideas, contribute their creativity, and actively participate in the innovation journey. By empowering employees and creating a positive work environment, change management becomes a catalyst for an innovation-driven culture within your organization.

Manage transformation
Effective change management helps to minimize disruptions during the innovation process. A poorly managed transformation can lead to operational inefficiencies and negative impacts on regular business operations. Change management ensures that changes are carefully planned, executed in a phased manner, and that potential risks are mitigated, ensuring a smoother transition. Properly managed change increases the likelihood of successful implementation, thereby maximizing the value gained from your innovation process.

Improve competitiveness
And finally, change is instrumental in maintaining an organization’s market competitiveness and continuity. In today’s rapidly evolving business landscape, the ability to adapt quickly to market demands is crucial for sustained success. Effective change management enables organizations to respond promptly to evolving market conditions, customer needs, and emerging opportunities, thereby gaining a competitive advantage, and maximizing the Return on Innovation.

team collaborating

The do's of change management in corporate innovation

Throughout our extensive experience with organizations to enhance their innovation performance, we have gained valuable insights from five pivotal lessons. It is about knowing where to go, the strategy or the why, and the enablers that will get you there. From decisive leadership and management to proper resources.

  1. Define a common innovation strategy
    A shared and compelling vision and strategy acts as a beacon, aligning the efforts of all stakeholders and empowering collaborative work towards a common purpose. It provides clarity, prioritizes innovation initiatives, and serves as a decision-making framework. Moreover, the innovation strategy plays a vital role within the business strategy, ensuring business ownership and reinforcing its significance.
  2. Enable leadership and clear communication
    Transparent and timely communication is essential throughout the innovation process. Leaders must clearly articulate the reasons and urgency for change, the desired outcomes, and the role of each employee in the transformation. They must ‘walk the talk’ and set the right example in empowering and enabling innovation teams, foster an innovative culture and guide with passion, energy, and perseverance.
  3. Involve the right people
    Engage employees and external stakeholders early in the innovation process to create a sense of ownership and commitment. This involvement ensures that various perspectives are considered, and potential roadblocks can be identified and addressed. Form a powerful ‘coalition of the willing’. Find the right people that can span boundaries, are free spirited, multifunctional, and are able to spread the innovation virus.
  4. Provide proper resources
    Equip employees with the necessary skills and resources to embrace innovation successfully. Training programs and ongoing support can ease the transition and build confidence in the new processes. This includes training of top management! Create a proper physical place for experimentation, a Growth Lab. Preferably highly visible for anybody to see and arrange long term dedicated funding for your innovation projects and supportive organizational structures and resources.
  5. Monitor and manage the process
    Plan for change. Take it one step at a time. Do not take the next step if the result of the previous one is not clear or based on ill foundations. Establish the right metrics or key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the success of your innovation initiatives through the different stages of the innovation process. Regularly monitor progress and adjust strategies as needed to stay on track. Celebrate your successes and use them as catalyst for change. Fail fast, cheap, and share and learn from your mistakes.

The don'ts of change management in corporate innovation

It would have been easy to say that the don’ts are off course the flip sides of the do’s. Like not having a strategy and the proper resources. And in many cases, this is of course true. But there is more. Next to the most important success lessons there are five important potential pitfalls that you would like to avoid, ensuring a smooth and successful transformation.

  1. Neglect resistance
    Organizations don’t change, people change. The truth is that nobody really likes to change. Resistance from employees, suppliers, clients or other ecosystem partners is a natural reaction to change. Failing to address employee and other stakeholders concerns and resistance can lead to a lack of buy-in and derail innovation efforts. Acknowledge and address resistance promptly to build trust and cooperation. Provide a platform to express opinions to be heard and solve the obstacles.
  2. Implement abruptly
    Rapid and radical changes without sufficient preparation can overwhelm employees and lead to a decrease in productivity. The essence of change is flow. Revolutions, and large comprehensive change programs are rarely successful. Gradual and phased implementation often allows for smoother transitions. We adhere to a much more ‘guerilla’ type approach. Organize for quick wins, to capture the low hanging fruit, and to create momentum for change. But make sure that they are captured in a greater scheme of things, preventing it from becoming ‘innovation theatre’. Change has its own strategy, tactics, and roadmap.
  3. Ignore Feedback
    Employee and stakeholder feedback is a valuable resource for understanding the challenges and opportunities during the innovation process. Ignoring feedback can result in missed insights and potential improvements. Not only regarding the innovation itself but more important its potential acceptance and successful implementation in the organization. It is essential to carefully listen to feedback and take prompt action upon it.
  4. Overlook Culture and Values
    Successful change management aligns with the company’s culture and values. Disregarding these aspects can lead to a disconnection between employees and the innovation process. Innovations with a more challenging and disruptive nature often have a great impact on your company’s culture. If needed, break the mold, and create a new adjusted set of values and way of working.
  5. Lack of ownership
    Over the years, numerous organizations have encountered various innovation projects, along with different innovation structures and processes. Among the most heard obstacles is the challenge faced during the implementation and scale-up phases of these projects. Innovators often struggle to gain adoption for their solutions due to a lack of business ownership. To ensure a seamless roll-out into the business, it is crucial to establish ownership at an early stage of your change management process.

Change management plays a critical role in the success of corporate innovation

It is obvious that change management is essential for the success of your innovation endeavors. Follow the do’s of a sound innovation strategy, clear communication and leadership, involvement of the right people, providing proper resources, and monitoring and managing the process, and avoid neglecting resistance, abrupt massive implementations, ignoring feedback, overlooking culture and values, and lack of ownership.

In proper change management ‘every horse has its own course’. By following the do’s and don’ts companies can pave the way for a successful and sustainable innovation journey.

Change initially always brings discomfort. However, it is far better to feel uneasy than to become extinct. With effective change management, corporations can embrace innovation as a driving force for growth and future success.

If you want to learn more about how change management can effectively improve your innovation performance, please reach out to me through email or got to our website for more case materials or book a 30 minute complimentary consultation meeting.